March 6, 2020
Shutting the door to my closet, I put my face in my hands and cried. It was Mother’s Day, the one twenty-four hours of the year when I was supposed to feel like a total Rockstar. Instead, I felt like a failure. I’m not sure I can even tell you specifics of the situation, but does it really matter? The reality is this: if you are a parent, you will feel like a complete failure at some point on the jouney, if not often.
It starts very young. Other babies don’t cry as much, walk sooner, and talk circles around your bundle of joy. Then it moves into whose toddler is better behaved and not throwing tantrums? Who is reading first? Who is showing signs of greatness in a sport or with a talent? We feel that we aren’t ever doing enough to keep up with whiz kids and prodigies around us.
By the teen years, most of us wave our white flags and decide parenting is too hard to play that game anymore. We are reminded, over and over, that we are not in control. We don’t give up, or stop parenting, but we let the pressure go. It’s hard enough.
So, what do we do in those moments when all arrows seem to be pointing to our failure as a parent? How do we manage those heavy, overwhelming feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, or frustration?
Remind yourself of these truths:
Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint
There will many twists and turns along the way. Stay the course, even when it feels really hard and heavy. Like an airplane, try to pull up to a 30,000-foot view. The stage you are currently in will not last forever, and you will make it through. Find someone who can say these words over and over again: “This too will pass.”
Love covers our lack
Here is the truth: we are doing the best we can with the skills we have. We won’t do it perfectly and we won’t do it without some big mistakes. If, at the end of the day, our children feel deeply loved, then that sense of security and belonging will cover our lack.
Humility is a powerful healer
If mistakes have been made, leaning into humility and saying “I’m sorry” or “please forgive me” usually leads to reconciliation. Hardening our hearts towards one another simply puts distance between us. Humility and softness bring people closer together.
Performance and identity are separate
We often equate our performance as a parent, or our children’s performance with how well we are doing as a person. Let’s know who we are, apart from our measuring sticks, and parent out of that healthier place. No one thrives under that kind of pressure, neither the children nor the parents. We also must be careful to not become enmeshed in our children.
Here is a definition of enmeshment:
Enmeshed parenting describes a style of parenting where a child struggles to develop their own personality, beliefs, and values due to the parent’s inability to separate their worth from a child’s good or bad behavior, successes or failures.
Remember “bigger, wiser, stronger, kind”
This helpful parenting mantra from the Circle of Security International serves as a great reminder that we are to be more mature than our children and treat them in a way that reflects wisdom, strength, and kindness. When we are tempted to fall apart, repeating these words helps us to make better parenting decisions.
Rest and renew
When we are feeling like a failure in anything, one of the best coping mechanisms to employ is to sleep, and engage in activities that bring joy. Take a hike, walk with a friend, paint, listen to music, seek out wise counsel, and be sure to laugh. Getting outside has an immediate therapeutic effect. Once we are renewed, we can come back to the same situation with a new mindset – one of hope!
Parenting is one of the hardest things we will do in his life. But when we don’t give up, or succumb to hopelessness, when we keep persevering, and keep choosing love, over and over again, we will hold our heads high knowing that we did everything possible to give our children a strong place to stand. They will have a place to belong, a place to be deeply loved, and a place to feel safe and secure in the world.